Four Senate Republicans opposed the bill
WASHINGTON — Senate GOP leaders have once again failed in their efforts to dismantle and simultaneously replace much of the Affordable Care Act, after the defections of two more Republican senators left the party short of the votes needed to pass President Trump’s top legislative priority for his first seven months in office.
Two more Republican senators stated on Monday night that they would oppose the Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, killing, for now, a seven-year-old promise to overturn Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement as president.
The announcement by the senators, Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas, left their leaders at least two votes short of the number needed to begin debate on their bill to dismantle the health law. Two other Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine, had already said they would not support a procedural step to begin debate.
With four solid votes against the bill, Republican leaders now have two options.
They can try to rewrite it in a way that can secure 50 Republican votes, a seeming impossibility at this point, given the complaints by the defecting senators. Or they can work with Democrats on a narrower measure to fix the flaws in the Affordable Care Act that both parties acknowledge.
This development deals a devastating blow not only to Republicans who have railed against the law for years, but also to Trump, who campaigned on killing Obamacare and made repealing the law his top legislative priority since taking office.
“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement late Monday. He said the Senate would vote in the coming days on a bill that would delay the repeal of Obamacare for two years — all as Trump called for a wholesale repeal of the law.
In announcing his opposition to the bill, Moran said it “fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address health care’s rising costs.”
“There are serious problems with Obamacare, and my goal remains what it has been for a long time: to repeal and replace it,” he said in a statement.
Lee said of the bill in a statement, “In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle-class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations.”
By defecting together, Moran and Lee ensured that no one senator would be the definitive “no” vote.
House Republicans, after their own fits and starts, passed a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act in May, a difficult vote that was supposed to set the stage for Senate action. But with conservative and moderate Republicans so far apart in the Senate, the gulf proved impossible to bridge. Conservatives wanted the Affordable Care Act eradicated, but moderates worried intensely about the effects that would have on their most vulnerable citizens.
The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, responded to the announcement on Monday by urging his Republican colleagues to begin anew and, this time, undertake a bipartisan effort.
“This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable,” Schumer said. “Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system.”